Bad Gamble

September 25th, 2009

Like many readers, I suspect, I found the article "The Blue Room Game" to be interesting and entertaining reading (July/August). But I was pretty shocked by the BAM editorial decisions surrounding it. From the photos and captions to the glaring absences in content, the article puts a glossy sheen on gambling. That the author of the article glamorizes his subject is understandable, given his relationship to the story. As he says at the top, "I know, because I was there." But where is the reporting and analysis that we have come to expect from the BAM? No insight from professors on the sociological impact of gambling or the nature of addiction? No interviews with students who experienced the Blue Room Game only from the outside? How about the people of Hillel House, where the players would go for "a free community dinner" between the Friday poker game and the Graduate Center bar? The families of the players?

As someone who has worked in an inpatient detox unit, I recognized the insidious nature of addiction in the two passing mentions of the subject. Ryan Goldberg perpetuates a misconception when he writes, "There is no shortage of stories about misfits addicted to online play flunking out of school, losing all their money. Poker looks easy but the best players will tell you that looks are deceiving. Over the long term the skill of the best players will save them, but many players go broke before they get there." According to this logic, the addicts are all on one side of the ledger: misfits, drop-outs, and losers; whereas skills and earnings "save" the good players from the disease, allowing them to devote their lives to poker without consequence.

And speaking of distortion: the statistics that accompanied the photo of the three students profiled were confusing and incomplete. They showed the tournament winnings, cash game winnings, and number of WSOP bracelets earned by each of the three. Are these net gains? Have the "buy-in" amounts been deducted? Do they reflect every (any?) lost at poker? If not, these numbers are speaking in the language of addiction: lies.

Lizzie Berne DeGear '90
New York City



Fawning celebrity coverage for poker players? A few sentences on how the poker life is not for everyone? The suggestion that this is what Brown's best and brightest are doing is plenty scary, though the connection of Ivy League poker players to traders on Wall Street is a telling sign of the times.

Krisztina Fehervary '84
Ann Arbor, Mich.

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Related Issue
September/October 2009